Not too long ago, I realized that my four-lecture 2010 OCON course — Luck in the Pursuit of Life: The Rational Egoist’s Approach to Luck — is available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore for just $22.38.

Update: As of January 2013, this course is no longer available from ARB. Check this page to see if it’s available now.

Here’s the course description:

Many people think of luck as a metaphysical force in the universe: they aim to increase good luck and decrease bad luck. That’s wrong—but how should rational egoists think about luck? This course argues that we ought to diminish the influence of luck on our lives by more fully exerting our powers of rational, purposeful control.

After defining luck, the first two lectures of this course survey two major false views of luck. The first lecture examines the religious view, exemplified by Augustine, that luck is a mere illusion because every event is the product of divine providence. The second lecture examines the modern egalitarian view, developed by philosophers John Rawls and Thomas Nagel, that luck is so pervasive in life that no one can be said to justly deserve anything, not merely economic goods but moral praise and blame too. These two views of luck are not merely based on false assumptions. When practiced, a person is subject to more blind luck than ever before.

Then the course turns to the rational approach to luck. First, Aristotle’s writings on moral responsibility, plus Ayn Rand’s argument for explicit philosophy, provide a framework for thinking about how to expand our power to shape our lives and thereby minimize luck. The heroes in Atlas Shrugged exemplify this approach, while the villains concretize its opposite. Next, the course considers some of the ways in which the Objectivist virtues make possible greater rational, purposeful control over our pursuit of values. Finally, the fourth lecture discusses some practical strategies for minimizing the effects of luck on our pursuits, with a focus on managing emergencies, increasing productivity, dealing with irrational people, and engaging in political activism.

The Theory and Practice of Pride

 Posted by on 8 September 2010 at 7:00 am  Ethics, OCON, Polls
Sep 082010
 

Unfortunately, my proposal for an optional course on “The Theory and Practice of Pride” for OCON 2011 was declined. I’m hugely interested in the topic — and committed to doing something with it sometime in the next year. I’ll let you know what I decide to do. In the meantime, just to get you a bit enthused too, here’s my proposal:

Objectivists often struggle to understand the nature and demands of the virtue of pride. Many wrongly suppose that pride requires only the consistent practice of the other virtues. Many wonder whether the demand for moral perfection asks too much. Many are not sure how to judge and respond to their own moral errors. Many worry that unwelcome emotions reveal deep character flaws, despite right action. Many wonder what is meant by “moral character.”

This course will survey the Objectivist virtue of pride, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of its theory and practice.

I will focus on developing Ayn Rand’s view of the nature and demands of pride. The dense paragraph on the virtue in Galt’s Speech will be unpacked and fleshed out — not merely using the writings of other Objectivist philosophers such as Smith and Peikoff — but also with examples from Ayn Rand’s novels, particularly the contrasting cases of Hank Rearden and Robert Stadler from Atlas Shrugged. Topics to be discussed include the relationship of pride to the cardinal value of self-esteem; the nature of moral character; the process by which a person’s thinking, choices, and actions shape his character; the importance of introspection for pride; the proper response to one’s own moral wrongs; and the requirements of moral perfection. The purpose of these discussions will be practical: we want to more deeply understand and then more consistently practice the virtue of pride.

In addition, the course will compare and contrast the Objectivist view of pride with that of Aristotle, as well as draw on some relevant (and good) writings by Aristotle on the cultivation of moral character. Also, the course will consider the war against pride waged by religionists and egalitarians, including how Objectivists might best explain and defend the virtue of pride.

Ah, I just realized that you could be helpful in shaping my plans! If you’re interested in this topic, please let me know what medium you’d prefer me to use for this work on pride via this quick poll. You can choose more than one medium, if you’d find them equally good. In the comments, please feel free to add any remarks that you have on your vote or the topic.


Kelly Valenzuela: OCON on the Cheap

 Posted by on 27 July 2010 at 7:00 am  OCON
Jul 272010
 

My friend Kelly Valenzuela recently posted some excellent advice on attending OCON without breaking the bank to her blog Rant from the Rock. She gave me permission to reproduce her whole blog post, and so without further ado, here’s Kelly’s advice:

Last week I returned from OCON where I had an absolutely fabulous time! Not only did I get to meet many Objectivists from all over the country and the world, but I got to see some good friends I rarely get to see. It was also a chance for me and my husband to get some much needed R&R. The Red Rock Resort, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas was a beautiful facility and we enjoyed many days beside their lovely pool. All of my pictures have been posted to Facebook, so you can check them out there.

Many Objectivists complain that OCON is too expensive and they’d like to go, but simply cannot afford it. While I’m sure there are some who truly cannot afford a vacation and/or conference, I think many could afford OCON if they only knew how to do it on the cheap.

First of all, I concede that OCON can be expensive. A couple could easily spend thousands of dollars on air fare, hotel, meals and conference lectures. The lectures and general sessions are usually wonderful and although pricey, the money helps fund Objectivist lecturers and The Ayn Rand Institute, which I consider a worthy cause.

To make lectures more affordable, you can buy them a la carte. If you wish to purchase lectures or general session events a la carte, you cannot register online (or at least you couldn’t this year); however, if you go to the OCON website during registration and click on “Registration” there is a number you can call to register a la carte.

Santiago and I only purchased the dance lesson and the closing dinner banquet. While there were other lectures we wanted to see, we simply couldn’t afford them and we felt the dance lesson and banquet would be something fun and social we could do together, while still having the opportunity to mingle with other Objectivists.

Besides the two events we paid for, we attended several of the free events. Yes, there are FREE events such as:

  • A reception for first-time conference attendees
  • Casual dinner for campus clubs and community groups and those interested in starting a new group
  • The State of the ARI by Yaron Brook
  • Independence Day Celebration
  • Introduction to Planned Giving (donating to ARI via your estate)
  • ARI Benefactors Dinner (by invitation only)
  • Rockstar Karaoke
  • Academic Panel
  • Lunch for Anthem Foundation Donors (by invitation only)
  • Social Dancing
  • Lunch for Atlantis Legacy Donors (by invitation only)
  • Happy Hours, dinner parties and other events put together by conference attendees, social groups and campus clubs

Santiago and I were also fortunate enough to be invited to John Lewis and Casey Conn’s renewal of their wedding vows while in Las Vegas. It was truly a highlight of the conference.

We also organized a trip to the Clark County Shooting Range. It was a lot of fun to teach other Objectivists how to shoot and watch them experience the thrill of handling a firearm for the first time.

Someone started an OCON 2010 Facebook page which helped many people secure a roommate, plan social gatherings and see news and announcements. One of those announcements was that Penn and Teller were offering conference attendees half price tickets to their show. Many of us took advantage of that and were treated to a wonderful show! Penn and Teller also mingled with the audience after the show, signed autographs and took photos.

With Penn

Penn told us, “This place is maggoty with Objectivists tonight!” :-)

So that just about covers the conference itself, but what about hotel, airfare and meals? Well, that’s easy too!

Thanks to our incompetent government and this awful economy it’s created, airfare is downright cheap nowadays. I recommend checking Southwest Airlines frequently for their “Wanna Get Away” fares. Many times you can buy early or last minute and get great deals. Southwest doesn’t participate in sites such as Orbitz.com, Expedia.com or Priceline, so be sure to check those sites independently for great deals from other carriers. Frequently, they will put their fares on sale to meet or beat Southwest.

Another option is to drive to the conference. The location changes each year. Las Vegas was only a 12 hour, scenic drive from Denver, so we took to the highway. Next year’s conference is in Fort Lauderdale. I won’t be driving to Florida, but I will start looking very early for good flight deals to Florida.

OCON is held at very nice hotels and conference facilities which, while luxurious and convenient, are often very pricey. Fortunately, old downtown Las Vegas (think Fremont Street) had many inexpensive hotels to choose from. We stayed at The Fitzgerald where our weeknights were only $29/night and our weekends were only $49/night. Others secured roommates for the conference and split the $120/night room cost at Red Rock.

I haven’t looked into Fort Lauderdale (OCON 2011) options yet, but I’m willing to bet I can find something close to the conference or a reasonable distance away for much less than the conference hotel rates. Then we can either walk, use public transportation, a rental car or friends with cars to get around. This can be tricky, so make sure you do your homework to make sure you’re getting the best deal and that your transportation needs are met. If there is not sufficient public transportation or if your rental car blows your hotel budget, you might as well stay at the conference hotel.

And finally, what are you going to eat? Meals are the easiest part of the whole budget! I’m on the paleo diet so eating is even more of a challenge for me than it is for most. Not only am I challenged with finding healthy foods, but I need to keep meal costs within my budget as well.

If you can locate a hotel room with a mini-frige and microwave, that’s ideal. Then you can go to the local grocery store and buy some lunch meats, cheeses, fruit and veggies to have as quick, easy lunches or snacks. A mini-frige is also helpful for keeping wine or beer which is often very pricey at hotels and restaurants.

Search the internet for restaurants near where you’ll be staying and near the conference. Many restaurants have email lists you can sign up for and they will occasionally mail you coupons or other specials. If you sign up now, surely you’ll find out about some good deals prior to OCON 2011.

Also keep in mind that many restaurants have early-bird specials (especially in Florida!) so eating dinner a bit early can save you lots of cash. Happy hours often feature not only cheap drinks, but good food. Sometimes you can get a variety of appetizers, burgers or smaller entrees for a reasonable price if you simply eat in the bar area.

And don’t forget fast food! Many fast food establishments are offering more healthy menu items and much more variety. Go for a bunless burger, a salad or a bowl of chili. Or have a full breakfast for just a few bucks.

If you want to go to OCON bad enough, you can make it happen! Figure out what your budget is, write it down, then stick to it! You have a whole year to save and plan, so what are you waiting for?

DSCN3870

See you in Fort Lauderdale! ;-)

Leonard Peikoff at OCON

 Posted by on 1 July 2010 at 8:40 pm  Leonard Peikoff, NYC Mosque, OCON
Jul 012010
 

As you might recall, Leonard Peikoff clearly requested that he not be asked any further questions about the NYC Mosque in his recent podcast. I wanted to remind everyone of that, given that OCON starts tomorrow. For his sake — and for the sake of a fun-filled OCON — I ask that everyone respect his request.

See you tomorrow! Yay!

Extra OCON Get-Togethers

 Posted by on 30 June 2010 at 7:00 am  Announcements, OCON
Jun 302010
 

In addition to the slew of official lectures and events at OCON this year, I’m hosting three unofficial get-togethers for OList subscribers.

  • OActivists: Happy Hour on Saturday, July 3rd, after State of ARI (35 attending so far)
  • OEvolve: Dinner on Sunday, July 4th (21 attending so far)
  • OBloggers: Lunch on Wednesday, July 7th (20 attending so far)

If you’re on those lists, you should have gotten an evite. (If not, check your spam folder.) If you wish to attend the OEvolve Dinner or the OBloggers Lunch, you must respond “yes” via the evite by the start of OCON. After that, bribery will be required. :-) I’m not so fussy about the OActivists Happy Hour, but please do respond “yes” if you plan to attend.

I’m so excited to meet even more of the people that I’ve gotten to know through my OLists. I love seeing my old friends at OCON, and I love meeting people who will be old friends by next year’s OCON! Yay for good people!

In addition, if you’re interested in creating a new Objectivist community group — or growing an existing group, I recommend that you attend the Oclubs.org workshop at OCON in the evening of Wednesday, July 7. Here’s their announcement:

Join the Oclubs.org workshop at OCON. Learn how to start & grow an Objectivist Community Club in your hometown!
  • The Colorado Objectivist community has more than 60 members and 7 monthly events
  • Chicago has 40 members in its community and 7 events per month
  • Atlanta’s new Objectivist community is thriving with 30 members and 1 event per month

Learn how these cities got started! Join Oclubs.org for a 45 minute workshop at OCON.

Wednesday, July 7 at 6:15p – 7:00, 5th Floor, Charleston F room

Oclubs.org was started to support the leaders of Objectivist clubs. We create resources, answer questions, and share advice. Read our Mission Statement here.

Oclubs.org is a fantastic resource for campus and community groups, and I hope to see lots of you at this meeting!

Last Chance for the Paleo Option at OCON

 Posted by on 13 June 2010 at 1:00 pm  Food, OCON
Jun 132010
 

My paleo-eating Objectivist friends! Soon, it will be too late to sign up for the “paleo option” for your OCON meals! You must send in your request by June 24th!

As I reported earlier, thanks to some generous work on the part of Julie Furguson of the Ayn Rand Institute, the Red Rock Hotel will offer a “paleo option” for meals at OCON.

To get that for any OCON-event meals (such as the various ARI-sponsored lunches and banquets), you just need to write David Gulbraa at DGulbraa@aynrand.org with that request. He’ll enter that with your name in their database. Then, once at the conference, you’ll just need to tell the waiter that you have the “paleo” option for your meal.

You can e-mail David anytime after you’ve registered — until a week before the conference. After that, you’re on your own — and you’ll be drowning in sugar, wheat, and more sugar.

About the hotel, Julie Furguson said, “They’d not heard of this type [of diet] but are willing to give it a try, so we appreciate your understanding if it’s not exactly what you want.” I want to underscore that — particularly because I want to have this option for future OCONs. Also, please take a moment to thank Julie for being so accommodating while at OCON. All that I did was make the request, and she took care of the rest.

Here’s what I requested as the “paleo option”:

It sounds rather complicated, but the essence is very simple: meat and veggies.

  • No wheat or other grains (no pasta, no bread)
  • No corn
  • No soy
  • No beans or legumes
  • No deep-fried foods
  • No sugar or artificial sweeteners
  • No low-fat dairy
  • Butter, animal fats, or olive oil instead of soy or canola oil
  • Extra vegetables instead of rice or potatoes
  • Olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing
  • Berries for dessert

    Simple meals of meat (or fish or eggs) and vegetables are great!

  • Please remember: You must request this option by June 24th!

    Finally, just to be perfectly clear, ARI is not endorsing a paleo diet, just being nice to some of their attendees!

    Paleo Option at OCON

     Posted by on 15 May 2010 at 7:00 am  Food, OCON
    May 152010
     

    I’m pleased to report that — thanks to some generous work on the part of Julie Furguson of the Ayn Rand Institute — the Red Rock Hotel will offer a “paleo option” for meals at OCON.

    To get that for any OCON-event meals (such as the various ARI-sponsored lunches and banquets), you just need to write David Gulbraa at DGulbraa@aynrand.org with that request. He’ll enter that with your name in their database. Then, once at the conference, you’ll just need to tell the waiter that you have the “paleo” option for your meal.

    You can e-mail David anytime after you’ve registered — until a week before the conference. After that, you’re on your own — and you’ll be drowning in sugar, wheat, and more sugar.

    About the hotel, Julie Furguson said, “They’d not heard of this type [of diet] but are willing to give it a try, so we appreciate your understanding if it’s not exactly what you want.” I want to underscore that — particularly because I want to have this option for future OCONs. Also, please take a moment to thank Julie for being so accommodating while at OCON. All that I did was make the request, and she took care of the rest.

    Here’s what I requested as the “paleo option”:

    It sounds rather complicated, but the essence is very simple: meat and veggies.

  • No wheat or other grains (no pasta, no bread)
  • No corn
  • No soy
  • No beans or legumes
  • No deep-fried foods
  • No sugar or artificial sweeteners
  • No low-fat dairy
  • Butter, animal fats, or olive oil instead of soy or canola oil
  • Extra vegetables instead of rice or potatoes
  • Olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing
  • Berries for dessert

    Simple meals of meat (or fish or eggs) and vegetables are great!

  • Please remember: You must request this option by June 24th!

    Finally, just to be perfectly clear, ARI is not endorsing a paleo diet, just being nice to some of their attendees!

    OCON 2010

     Posted by on 31 March 2010 at 9:00 am  Announcements, FormSpring, OCON
    Mar 312010
     

    Remember… today is the last day to register for OCON 2010 in Las Vegas with discount pricing. I’m enthused about all the general sessions, as well as about more of the optional courses than I can possibly attend. In fact, I’m pretty seriously worried that I’m going to burn myself out with this so-called vacation! (I plan to be very careful about eating and sleeping well.)

    Here’s my own course:

    Luck in the Pursuit of Life: The Rational Egoist’s Approach to Luck:

    When most people speak of a businessman’s wealth as “good fortune” or wish a student “good luck” before an exam, they are not speaking in mere idioms. People commonly regard their lives as driven by luck. That’s wrong, yet luck undoubtedly affects us. So what is the practical significance of luck?

    To answer that question, this course surveys common false views of luck, focusing on their effects on a person’s ideas and actions. It then develops a proper view, drawing on the insights of Aristotle and Ayn Rand. While Rand’s remarks in her essays are brief, a rich view of the role of luck in life can be unearthed from her novels.

    By focusing on the ethics of luck, this course offers fresh insight into the practice of the Objectivist virtues and reveals common errors about luck that hinder us in our pursuits.

    I’m going to have all kinds of fun with that!

    Update: On FormSpring, I just answered the following question:

    OCON prices go up later today. I am thinking of registering but the cost seems so high. I have heard it’s not necessary to register for all General Sessions. Do you recommend this? Any other don’t-miss parts I should consider?

    I said (with a few additions):

    You can register for the general sessions a la carte. This year, all the general sessions look excellent. (That’s not always true.)

    As for optional courses, I recommend choosing two or maybe three courses per session, and choosing courses largely based on the quality of the speaker. Some speakers are consistently awesome, particularly live — such as John Lewis, Robert Mayhew, and Eric Daniels. I’d listen to them speak about varieties of mud, because they’d make that interesting.

    I like quite a number of other speakers too, such as Greg Salmieri, Dina Federman, and Brad Thompson. However, sometimes I have to get those courses on audio because my schedule just won’t allow me to take their course live.

    (Note: The names I’ve mentioned are people who happen to be speaking this year. Craig Biddle isn’t, for example, but I always love his courses. Oh, and some other good speakers tend to speak on topics of little interest to me.)

    I do avoid a few speakers, based on past experiences. (If you want to know who those people are, you can e-mail me. My experiences are somewhat old… and hopefully outdated.)

    Of course, much depends on scheduling. I have to miss John Lewis entirely this year because I’m speaking opposite him.

    Honestly though, this OCON looks to be one of the best ever in terms of its line-up of speakers. And it’s likely to be Leonard Peikoff’s last speaking event.

    I wouldn’t miss it!

    (Yes, I will be posting my various FormSpring Q&As to NoodleFood soon. I’ve got some gems!)

    OCON Wrap Up

     Posted by on 7 July 2008 at 2:09 pm  ARI, OCON
    Jul 072008
     

    Now that OCON is over and done, NoodleFood will resume its regular blogging on matters of more general interest. I do hope that folks enjoyed the reports, even though usually pretty brief. I’d love to hear whether people might be more (or less!?!) interested in attending an OCON as a result.

    (Written and posted from my iPhone in the airport.)

    Highlights from OCON: Day 8

     Posted by on 6 July 2008 at 10:26 pm  ARI, OCON
    Jul 062008
     

    Here are highlights from the Ayn Rand Institute’s summer conference (a.k.a. OCON), Day Eight:

    Yaron Brook on “Cultural Movements: Creating Change,” Lecture 3 of 3:

    • Yaron Brook gave a compelling speech on the desperate need for grassroots activism to help turn around the culture in the next 20 years, including some ideas for how to do so. ARI and Objectivist intellectuals cannot do all the necessary work on their own. I won’t repeat what he said here, as I believe that these three lectures on activism will be made available for free on the “activism” section of the ARI web site. I cannot recommend listening to them highly enough.

    • Happily, Yaron cited Lin Zinser’s FIRM as a positive example of grassroots activism. Of course, for anyone interested in activism to promote Objectivist ideas in the culture, I strongly recommend joining my OActivists mailing list. I’ve got big plans for it to be implemented in the next month or so.
    • Unfortunately, my enjoyment of this captivating lecture was marred by a very irritating request about halfway through from the person sitting next to me. She was bothered by the perfectly ordinary noise of my typing notes on my computer, and somehow I was obliged to move to another seat. That pretty much killed my concentration for the rest of the lecture. I was literally unable to comprehend what Yaron was saying for a few minutes. I was so irritated because I wasn’t doing anything abnormal or inappropriate, I was in my seat with my computer before she arrived, and she ought to have moved if she’s sensitive. I have no idea who the person was, but I’m still irritated, as I won’t be able to remember the event without remembering that most unwelcome interruption. BLECH!

    Eric Daniels on Freedom of Speech in American History, Lecture 3 of 3:

    • Today, Eric Daniels covered the state of the law in various kind of free speech, particularly obscenity law, fighting words and hate speech, and symbolic speech.

    • He also advocated three strategies in any attempt to defend freedom of speech. I’ll list them here, although they only really make sense in the context of the whole course.
      1. Articulate and advocate a proper view of free speech, based on the proper grounds of individual rights and the exercise of reason.
      2. Defend even the worst speech on principle.
      3. Argue that free speech is not just about politics but about all aspects of man’s life.

    Paul and I will be returning home tomorrow. I’m looking forward to that, although apparently it’s hot hot hot in Denver.

    Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha